RAIDCore Unleashes SATA to Take Out SCSI

RAIDCore Whets Its Storage Knife With SATA

If it's a fast and stable hard drive subsystem you're after, a powerful RAID controller in most cases is what you need. Ultra320 SCSI is the standard component here for a large number of hard drives with a RAID interconnection. For all its high performance, however, the Ultra320 also has its disadvantages; the most serious of these are the costs incurred in purchasing the premium components.

As incredible as this may sound, SATA has performance advantages over Ultra320 - provided it's used correctly and in conjunction with a sufficiently fast interface with the system. That is because each SATA hard drive communicates with the controller via its own fast (150 MB/s) point-to-point connection while the SCSI bus is used jointly by all devices. In certain circumstances this constellation can lead to bottlenecks in peak data traffic: A fact which is sufficiently well known for manufacturers to waste no time in fine-tuning Serial Attached SCSI (SAS). Until they're done, SATA will have its day.

If the SATA products available will indeed replace Ultra320 SCSI, decision-makers will eventually have to take them seriously. In fact, high-performance products have already been around for many months in the form of the multi-channel controllers from 3Ware (8500 and 8506 with 4, 8 or 12 ports), which rank behind their SCSI competitors in only a few aspects. Adaptec, Highpoint, ICP Vortex, LSI Logic and Promise have equally interesting RAID solutions with up to six SATA channels in their ranges with eight channel versions to follow. Acard and Silicon Image are the only teams that don't play in the professional league, since they do not offer any RAID 5 compatible products.

There's a whole lot going on in the hard drive department also, as all major manufacturers have now added compatible SATA drives to their ranges. With 10,000 rpm, Western Digitals Raptor remains unbeaten as the sole drive to be fast enough to hit the sweet spot in the SCSI market. Raptor's only weak point is the low capacity of just 36 GB, but this drawback should be eliminated in the near future.

These days the biggest waves are being made by a young company called RAIDCore, whose RAID controllers are based on a prototype multi-layered software architecture called Fulcrum. RAIDCore was established in 2000 by former employees of Adaptec and has appointed itself the goal of turning the storage market in the high-end segment on its head.

The RAIDCore Website actually proclaims a range of functionality for the Fulcrum Architecture, which goes beyond the usual features of high-class Ultra320 RAID controllers. This alone was good reason to subject RAIDCore's prototype called RC4000 to a thorough test and to compare it with the solutions on sale from Adaptec and LSI Logic (dual channel Ultra320 RAID) as well as 3Ware and HighPoint (eight channel SATA RAID).